Former NFL long snapper and U.S. Army Green Beret Nate Boyer doesn’t approve of how the NFL has handled its new ban on kneeling for the national anthem.
On Friday, Boyer kicked off Memorial Day weekend by telling a San Diego sports talk radio station that the NFL once again has bungled the kneeling controversy.
“This was a big opportunity to bring the players to the discussion with the league and they didn’t do it,” Boyer told radio host Scott Kaplan and his 1090 radio station crew. “I don’t really understand that.”
Then on Monday, Boyer responded to a tweet from Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) who criticized the New York Jets owner Saturday for agreeing to pay his players’ protest fines. King compared taking a knee during the anthem to giving a Nazi salute.
“That’s a little farfetched... a lot farfetched, I should say.” Boyer said on CNN’s New Day. “Taking a knee was sort of born out of compromise between two people who didn’t necessarily agree on everything... You can’t compare it to a Nazi salute.”
The controversy around NFL players kneeling during the national anthem has been roiling for nearly two years. In 2016, Kaepernick told reporters he was angry about the string of high-profile police shootings of black men like Alton Sterling and Philando Castile when he decided to sit on the San Francisco 49ers bench while the national anthem played during his team’s pre-season games.
Boyer later told Bryant Gumbel of HBO’s Real Sports that he saw Kaepernick sitting on TV and at first, it made him angry. He wrote a letter to the quarterback who invited him to meet.
“We sort of came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammates,” Boyer told Gumbel. “Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave to show respect.”
Since then, Boyer has spoken out several times expressing confusion over why the patriotic protest and its intended message have become distorted. In October 2017, Boyer wrote an open letter to President Donald Trump expressing dismay over the current political divide in America.
“Today it feels like this national divide isn’t even really about the anthem, or the flag, or kneeling, or sitting or fists in the air,” Boyer wrote. “It feels like it’s about winning... This winning mentality seems to have spilled over into an obsession with being right and not willing to admit that maybe, just maybe we were wrong.”
Boyer similarly expressed confusion over the NFL’s latest decision. “Why not open those lines of communication?” he asked Kaplan on his radio show.
“You want to know why?” the host responded. “Because, ‘We’re the rich, white owners, and they’re the young, black ballplayers who we just made rich. So they don’t tell us what to do. We tell them what to do.’”
“I don’t think they all think that,” Boyer fired back.
“There’s about 10 of them that do,” Kaplan responded. “If you looked at the 32 owners, you could pinpoint which ones are those guys. Those guys wield a lot of power still. Now you’re starting to hear some owners break off and go, ‘No. I don’t really care guys. You want to protest? Freedom of speech. Do your thing.’”
Kaplan was talking about New York Jets acting owner, chairman and CEO Chris Johnson who said he would pay the fine any of his team’s players may incur for protesting during the anthem. Boyer told Kaplan that owners who feel the same way as Johnson need to back up the players.
Boyer also said the NBA does a better job of “working alongside their players” than the NFL and that the league’s new rule won’t make this controversy go away.
“Football is such a huge footprint in our country,” he said. “It’s certainly not going away now just because these policies have came down. There will still be this discussion. It’ll be interesting to see what the fans do.”
Boyer also had a Memorial Day message for the American people about the men and women who died fighting for this country.
“What most of them died for is not the right to protest,” he said. “It’s not for patriotism. It’s not for the constitution or the American flag or the national anthem or any of that...What they died for is the man on their left and right,” he continued. “If we can’t live for the man on our left and right back here at home, respectfully, in spite of our differences, then what in the hell did they die for?”